NDM: What about an energetic shift? Does this also take place?
Ramesam Vemuri: A particular individual may call his experience as an ‘energetic shift’ and only he can tell what those terms signify. Most people may figuratively express “realization” as a change in perspective, a sort of re-orientating, rather than as anything extra-ordinary or dramatic.
NDM: So if the understanding isn’t crystal clear, are you saying this is the reason why one may not become a Jivanmukta?
Ramesam Vemuri: That is true. Absolute clarity without even a speck of confusion or doubt on the teaching (shall we call the “theory”?) of Advaita is a must and is the primary step. Lack of clarity or misunderstanding can lead one astray into pursuit of false mental states, fancy expectations and may even result in unhealthy minds or dead ends.
NDM: Will crystal clear knowledge wipe out all vAsanA-s?
Ramesam Vemuri: Crystal clear Knowledge will once for all establish without any scope for a doubt that ‘vAsanA-s’ are just a conceptual term and like all concepts, it is purely imaginary, fallacious and unreal.
Please notice that I capitalized Knowledge. This is to show a distinction from the type of knowledge we acquire and accumulate in brain like Physics or carpentry. Knowledge with capital K is Self-Knowledge, not accumulative. It is not something hoarded. It is never of the past. It is always in the present, alive and afresh. It is prior to the concepts of space and time. It is the experiential Knowledge that what all exists (including the seeker) is One whole undivided Consciousness or brahman.
Description of Nirvana as equivalent to total annihilation of vAsanA-s appears to be a model more popular in post-Upanishad period. vAsanA-s is a concept developed to explain the accumulated and stored knowledge, the behavioral pattern of responses based on habituation. The stored knowledge with lower case k is a function of time and training.
Knowledge of Self gets inputted, undoubtedly, through knowledge (using language, words, symbols etc.). When Knowledge takes root, It does not go piling up like worldly knowledge or expertise. It destroys knowledge and destroys itself too in the end. What then remains as residual is brahman. Vedanta gives several metaphors to explain the process.
The paste of ground Water-purifying Fruit (Knowledge) added to turbid water, precipitates the turbidity (knowledge). Along with turbidity, the added paste too is sedimented. It does not remain and add on to the turbidity. The second example is fire (Knowledge) and firewood (knowledge). Fire initially burns the logs. When the logs are fully burnt, fire also gets extinguished. It does not remain and continue as ‘fire.’ A third is the washing dirt off a cloth. A detergent is added to the dirt. But the detergent too is washed away along with the dirt.
NDM: What exercises can one do to wipe out their vAsanA-s? Do mantras, japa, meditation help at all? What would you suggest?
Ramesam Vemuri: Mantras, japa, meditation, etc. are all actions that help in the reduction of vacillations in a mind and are conducive towards the development of a focused mind. Pilgrimages, holy dips, rituals, donations, service etc. may help in the development of detachment and also free one from too narrow an outlook and loosen the vice grip of a belief system.
For a reasonably analytical, intelligent and disciplined mind with an above average I.Q., cultivation of any of such exercises is superficial, irrelevant and of no concern for attainment of Nirvana, IMHO. A balanced diet and limited exercise that can contribute to a healthy body-mind are more necessary so that Self-inquiry may proceed unimpeded by health problems
Coming to the question of vAsanA-s: What I am presently ‘conscious’ in the now is an undesirable trait. (Let us not for the present question the legitimacy in branding the observed trait as ‘undesirable.’ We discussed this aspect under Question 4). I am not ‘conscious’ of the vAsanA which is an imagined cause for the undesirable observed trait.
vAsanA-s are just fictitious ‘culprits.’ Further, we place them not only outside us but also so far away from us in time (in an unknown past). Why is it so?
If something (a good or bad trait) arises in my Consciousness in the ‘now’, it is Consciousness which has taken the shape of that trait ‘now.’ Is it then correct to link it to an unknown past? Does this not imply that Consciousness has a past and a history?
Let us take a detector of temperature. We call it thermometer. Can a thermometer ever detect a temperature of yesterday or even the temperature a minute ago? It can only and always function in the ‘now.’
So also Consciousness (which for the present analysis may be viewed as a multi-sense, multi-parameter detector) can function always and only in the ‘now.’ What it detects is always new, fresh, alive, never dead or in the past. Consciousness has no memory, no history. Even if a thought or image about a past event occurs, that thought itself is detected (i.e. we are aware) in the ‘now.’ That thought is a new, live, arising.
So the trait, desirable or undesirable, appearing ‘now’ has no past history. The imagined causal vAsanA is a concept that has arisen ‘now.’ A concept is just another thought. Each thought is highly ephemeral, has no true existence. A thought comes and as easily disappears in a flash. Why should we make any effort to wipe it?
In fact any effort to cleanse a thought, or offer resistance to it, is surprisingly counterproductive! Our resistance gives strength to it. So best thing is just to observe the trait arise and let it go just by ignoring it.
Looked at from another way, my search for a culprit and effort to kill it is avoidance of taking responsibility. At the moment the trait arises, it is ‘me’ who is conscious of it. ‘Me’ is my Consciousness. The observed trait is the shape Consciousness has taken as an arising. So ‘me’ is the trait at that moment. There is no separate ‘me’ here possessing an unwanted ‘trait.’ Me is the trait and the trait is me. Is it at all possible for me to wipe out myself naming ‘me’ as an undesirable trait?
(I hope the logic is not too confusing. If I need to elaborate, I shall do so).
(To Continue … Part: 7/12)
Ramesam – ‘The imagined causal vAsanA is a concept that has arisen ‘now.’ A concept is just another thought.’
You are of course taking a position from the higher perspective or higher truth of Advaita Vedanta, and there can be no dispute here. However, the translation of VASANAS I am familiar with is ‘latent tendencies, impressions or conditionings’. Evidently this pertains to the empirical life (vyavahara) of the *presumed* individual being.
Could we not equate vasanas (or samskaras) with , etc. — iow conditionings? It seems undeniable that most of us are often (if not usually) subjected to these latent tendencies, even knowing that they are just tendencies or habits of mind and that the mind is a superimposition on pure Consciousness and not real by itself.
They (vasanas) are also present and taught in the vademecum of AV, at least as an interim teaching (adhyaropa), and are similar to the concatenation of phenomena in Buddhism (Co-dependent origination) and the karma of Vedanta. Is there in your opinion some validity to this account — even as a provisional teaching?
Some words were accidentally omitted from my comments above — 3rd par., just after ‘(or samskaras) with’. The missing words are: ‘genetic make-up plus upbringing, experiences, accidents,’.
I agree with both your observations.
As you are aware, all the Upanishads explain the creation but end up saying that there is no creation. The false story of creation is spoken about only as an aid towards understanding the final Truth.
Shankara in his commentary at 2.1.33 BSB declares towards the end in unequivocal terms that “We should not forget that the creation-shrutis are not absolutely true. The purpose of creation shruti is to establish Brahman-Atman aikya.”
Shankara says at his commentary on brihat 2.1.20 : “Therefore the mention in all Vedanta texts of the origin, continuity and dissolution of the universe is only to strengthen our idea of brahman being a homogeneous unity, and not to make
us believe in the origin etc. as an actuality. ” (Translation, Swami Madhavananda).
We have Gaudapada too clearly stating that there is no creation at all in his kArikA at 3.15 and the famous 2.32.
But to view the vAsanA-s and samskAra-s as a possible model having any credibility carries with it the whole baggage of believing in the theory of rebirth, an absolute and invariant space-time framework, and also the operation of cause-effect relationships. It will then be like speaking a hundred lies more just to support one lie.
Instead of that, my position is that the seeker should take responsibility and accept that his/her understanding of the truth has not been complete and thorough. S/he should search where the lacuna lies rather than finding excuses for his inability in fully ingesting the Non-dual teaching. He should stop taking recourse to blaming some unknown and unfalsifiable imaginary entities like vAsanA-s etc. Otherwise, it is sheer intellectual dishonesty, IMHO.
As regards the usefulness of the concepts of vAsanA-s and samskAra-s in describing the genetic and memetic characteristics of the biological species, the topic was discussed at the beginning of the Part – 2 of this Series. I felt the two terms may well correspond to what the biologists call the gentype and phenotype. You may please take a look at : https://www.advaita-vision.org/jivanmukta-and-jivanmukti-2-12/